A Digital Turn

Recognizing Asian Gendered Resistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Mayumi Sato University of Cambridge


Anti-Asian racism, COVID-19, digital activism, gendered resistance


Anti-Asian racism has escalated significantly during COVID-19, yet scholarly attention to this increase in racial violence has been scant. With rising cases of physical and verbal violence against the Asian community in the Global North, Asian activists have taken to social media and digital activism to contest anti-Asian racist tropes and to broaden global awareness around increasingly hostile anti-Asian hate. After the Atlanta Massacre which led to the death of six Asian women, Asian women have been instrumental in leading anti-racist coalition building, virtual forums, and online campaigns in the protection of Asian women and girls, workers, and undocumented communities. The use of social media and online organizing at a time of ‘stay-at-home’ orders exposed the significance of the Internet in Asian feminist and anti-racist resistance. These channels have given Asian women the opportunity to call attention to the gendered and racist systems of oppression that have dispossessed them of their rights. This piece recognizes the Internet as a space where Asian women have been creatively organizing alongside other women of color in vocal and subtle ways. It reveals how digital media have unearthed Asian women's hidden leadership in oftentimes racially exclusionary environments within mainstream feminist movements in the Global North, and highlights the importance of Asian women in advancing a new line of progressive anti-racist politics. This piece calls upon scholars to interrogate the use of digital media by Asian activists, and in particular Asian women, to give credit to Asian communities' oftentimes neglected and overlooked leadership in anti-racist movements.


AAPI Women Lead. 2022. “@aapiwomenlead,” https://linktr.ee/aapiwomenlead.

Abidin, C and Jing Zeng. 2020. “Feeling Asian Together: Coping with #COVIDRacism on Subtle Asian Traits,” Social Media + Society, 1-5.

Ash, James, Rob Kitchin, and Agnieszka Leszczynski. 2018. “Digital Turn, Digital Geographies?,” Progress in Human Geography 42, no. 1: 25-43.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 2022. “About,” https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/about.

Asian American Feminist Collective. 2022. “@aafc.nyc,” https://linktr.ee/aafc.nyc.

Asian American Feminist Collective. 2020. “We Want Cop Free Communities: Against the Creation of an Asian Hate Crime Task Force by the NYPD,” https://aafcollective.medium.com/we-want-cop-free-communities-3924956251a2.

Brock, Andre. 2011. “Beyond the Pale: The Blackbird Web Browser’s Critical Reception,” New Media & Society 13, no. 7: 1085–1103.

Brock, Andre. 2018. “Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis,” New Media & Society 20, no. 3: 1012–1030.

Chang, Benjamin. 2020. “From ‘Illmatic’ to ‘Kung Flu’: Black and Asian Solidarity, Activism, and Pedagogies in the Covid-19 Era,” Postdigit Sci Educ 2: 741–756.

Chang, Robert. 1993. “Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post Structuralism, and Narrative Space,” California Law Review 81, no.5: 1241–1323.

Gao, Qin and Xiaofang Liu. 2021. “Stand Against Anti-Asian Racial Discrimination During COVID-19: A Call for Action,” International Social Work 64, no. 2: 261-264.

Gover, Angel, Shannon B. Harper, and Lynn Langton. 2020. “Anti-Asian Hate Crime during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Reproduction of Inequality.” AM J Crim Justice 1-21.

Iftikar, Jon S. and Samuel D. Museus. 2018. “On the Utility of Asian Critical (AsianCrit) Theory in the Field of Education,” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 31, no. 10: 935-949.

Karuka, Manu. 2019. Empire’s Tracks: Indigenous Nations, Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kim, Jung and Betina Hsieh. 2021. The Racialized Experience of Asian American Teachers in the US: Applications of Asian Critical Race Theory to Resist Marginalization. London: Routledge.

Kolano, Lan. 2016. “Smartness as Cultural Wealth: an AsianCrit Counterstory,” Race Ethnicity and Education 19, no. 6: 1149-1163.

Lee, Stacey J. Choua P. Xiong, Linda M. Pheng, and Mai Neng Vang. 2020.“‘Asians for Black

Lives, Not Asians for Asians’: Building Southeast Asian American and Black Solidarity.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 51, no. 4: 405-421.

Li, Yao and Harvey L. Nicholson Jr. 2021. “When “Model Minorities” become “Yellow Peril”—Othering and the Racialization of Asian Americans in the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Sociology Compass 15, no. 2: 1-13.

Malekoff, Andrew. 2021. “From the Editor: Stop Asian Hate (for 44:4),” Social Work with Groups, 1-4.

Matsuda, Mari. 1995. “Looking to the Bottom: Critical Legal Studies and Reparations,” Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review 22: 323-399.

National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum. 2022. “Our Work,” https://www.napawf.org/our-work.

Noble, Safiya. 2018. Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.  New York: New York University Press.

Project 1907. 2022. “About Us,” https://www.project1907.org/about.

Red Canary Song. 2022. “About Us,” https://www.redcanarysong.net/about-us.

Stewart, Maya and Ulrike Schultze. 2019. “Producing Solidarity in Social Media Activism: The Case of My Stealthy Freedom,” Information and Organization 29, no. 3: 1-23.

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 1994. Racial Formation in the United States. New York: Routledge.

Wu, Lin and Nhu Nguyen. 2022. “From Yellow Peril to Model Minority and Back to Yellow Peril,” AERA Open 8, no. 1: 1-10.

Yellow Horse, Aggie J., Kuo, Karen, Seaton, Eleanor K., and Edward D. Vargas. 2021. “Asian Americans’ Indifference to Black Lives Matter: The Role of Nativity, Belonging and Acknowledgement of Anti-Black Racism,” Social Science 10, no. 5: 168.

Young Asian American Health Survey. 2022. “Our Story,” https://www.yaahsteam.org/our-story




How to Cite

Sato, M. (2022). A Digital Turn: Recognizing Asian Gendered Resistance During the COVID-19 Pandemic. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(3), 303–310. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/2191